A marriage on the rocks undergoes a transformative experience in a remote jungle in Thai helmer Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s supernatural-tinged drama “Nymph.” Challengingly slow-paced, much like the helmer’s last two pics (“Ploy,” “Invisible Waves”) this one starts to cast a bewitching spell by its final reels, although for some the effect will be more like that of a sleeping potion. Further fest play is sure to follow, but “Nymph” will frolic in only a very limited way on the specialty circuit thereafter.
An eerie prologue consists of one long Steadicam shot in a forest. There, a woman being raped is glimpsed through the trees, and then, some distance away, two men (her attackers, perhaps?) are seen lying dead in a river. This take appears to be a point-of-view shot, but whoever’s watching seems to make no sound as they cross the leaf-strewn forest floor, a subtle but telling detail (typical of the pic’s thoughtful sound design) that anticipates the creepiness to come.
The action cuts to professional photographer Nop (Nopachai Jayanama), who gets a gig taking wildlife pictures of a forest (presumably the same one just seen) some distance from the metropolis he lives in. Nop elects to take along his wife May (Wanida Termthanaporn), an office worker who’s been having an affair with her married boss Korn (Chamanun Wanwinwasara).
One night in the forest, Nop is lured by noises outside the tent and goes off to explore. May finds him missing in the morning, and after searching the forest, she discovers only his cell phone and one of his flip-flops.
Back home by herself, May mourns her missing husband. As if by magic, her remorse appears to bring him back, giving the couple a chance to salvage their formerly ailing marriage.
Ratanaruang again demonstrates a gift for evoking romantic melancholy among sophisticates with a few economical strokes, although his earlier pic, “Last Life in the Universe,” remains his master study of the subject. Meanwhile, “Nymph’s” bucolic setting and animist mysticism somewhat evokes Ratanaruang’s countryman Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Tropical Malady,” but with more accessible results.
Tech package is solid in general, although lensing looks better in daylight shots than in the grotty and abundant night scenes. Pic is dedicated to one of its producers, the late sales agent Wouter Barendrecht, who helped Ratanaruang’s films break out beyond Thailand’s borders.